Posted on Apr 29, 2020


EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP is calling on the UCP to apologize for lying to parents of children with disabilities and reverse funding cuts, following a report  more than 400 Edmonton Public School Board pre-kindergarten students are being abandoned by the UCP following a 76 per cent cut to their funding.

Program Unit Funding (PUF) supports early education for students who need extra help. It includes people like educational assistants, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists. The program is meant to give students with disabilities a chance to keep pace alongside their peers by grade one.

“This coupled with more than 20,000 pink slips the Education Minister handed educational assistants and other support staff during the pandemic is a travesty,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Education critic. “Students need more support not less, especially during these challenging times.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. A review of the projected operational funding provided by the government shows that many districts will see their PUF funding cut by an average of 70 per cent.”

In February the Education Minister told the media, “all of our PUF students — the Program Unit Funding students, for those with the most needs — every single student is funded.” 

“Minister Adriana LaGrange lied to Albertans about maintaining funding for schools,” Hoffman said. “The UCP government has acted in a manner that is beneath the respect of the titles they hold in attacking these parents who are standing up for their children with disabilities. The evidence is clear, the Minister must apologize today, reverse this terrible decision and fully fund Alberta schools.”

Sarah Doll is a parent of two children with complex needs in the Edmonton area.

“For the UCP to make such massive cuts to the PUF program is absolutely devastating to our family and many like ours,” Doll said. “As we sit at home during an uncertain time with our disabled children falling further behind by the day, we know with absolute certainty that our government does not have our backs. We know that the UCP has not put our children first. 

“Children with disabilities are falling behind and losing funding for this fall when it will be needed more now than ever. Delayed children are being denied assessments to even enter the PUF program due to AHS cuts. This blatant disregard for the needs of the most vulnerable children of Alberta displays the values of the UCP do not include a child's right to education. We have been told that we are on our own and quite frankly we expected a lot more from this government.”

“These cuts will affect the future of Alberta. These cuts violate the rights of thousands of disabled children.  The parents, families, and friends of these children will never be able to forgive or forget this.”

Keltie Marshall has nine kids, many of them with complex needs, and lives in the Fort Saskatchewan area.

“As a parent, I am deeply concerned for the future of inclusive education in Alberta,” Marshall said. “PUF in particular has changed the lives of some of my kids. I have a daughter who was four and a half at the time of her adoption. We managed to get her in for the last year of PUF. That September when she started at Mayfield School, my daughter needed a wheelchair if we were going to walk further than about two blocks. By the next June, she almost never needed to use her wheelchair. The following year we had a big celebration on the day we returned her chair to the Glenrose for good. Today, this daughter is 14. She learned to ride a two-wheel bike two years ago. She has exceeded all our expectations, and it all started with PUF. 

“I also want to tell you about my son who just turned five in April. He is currently diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, sensory processing disorder, and a moderate speech delay. This little guy is sweet and attentive and he could read by four-and-a-half. What he can’t do is regulate his emotions and he definitely can’t stop his physical and vocal tics. The UCP wants to tell us that he will receive the same funding as older children this fall, but I am here to tell you that after parenting several older children through elementary school, those supports are sporadic at very best, and now that all schools will be doing even more with even less, this chronic problem is now a full-blown crisis. There is no PR angle this government can take here that will make the proposed school situation OK for children with special needs this fall.”